On June 4, Bishop Donald Kettler will ordain two permanent deacons, Hans Michael Froslee and Christopher Goenner, and one transitional deacon, seminarian Derek Wiechmann at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. The public is invited to attend.
These three men had very different paths to their vocation but similar goals: to embody the image of Christ, the servant, as they become ordained deacons in the Diocese of St. Cloud.
• Hans Froslee
Hans Michael Froslee — named after his grandfather Hans and father, Michael — most often just goes by the name, “Mick.”
As a retired military pilot having served both in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy, he’s held a lot of titles in his life, including Captain, Air Boss and Lieutenant Commander. Because he earned four university degrees, including a doctorate in psychology, some call him “Doctor” and “Teacher.”
Froslee has been married for 17 years to Elizabeth, also a retired naval officer. The couple has seven children and one granddaughter, earning him the honor of being called husband, father and grandfather.
On June 4, Froslee will take on one more title — deacon.
A member of St. Edward Parish in Henning, Froslee is active in his parish and community, assisting in pastoral work and music ministry, teaching at Minnesota State Community and Technical College and substitute teaching in the Henning Public School district.
Froslee said he has felt very supported by his family on his journey toward becoming a deacon, he said. And family, he added, ranges from his immediate family to his extended family to his church family.
“When I meet people, I always equate them to a relationship I have with someone else. I say to myself, ‘You remind me of my cousin,’ or ‘You are like my aunt.’ That way the person becomes very real to me, and then that’s the way you love them and care for them, like family. It’s easy that way.”
This philosophy is something he learned in the military when training new pilots and recruits, he said.
After Mick retired from the Navy, he and Elizabeth, who was still on active duty, lived in San Antonio, Texas, attended a parish where there were six deacons serving the community. They later moved to Virginia, where there were no deacons serving in the local parishes.
“That was the first time it made me realize there was a need,” he said. “So then I asked myself the question, ‘Was I called to answer that need?’”
But it was when the family moved to the Vining area in Otter Tail County where Mick grew up that people urged him to consider becoming a deacon, especially those in his parish and in the nursing home where he and his family often lead the prayer service.
That, he said, is when it became clear that the diaconate was where God was calling him to serve.
Froslee spoke with his pastor, Father LeRoy Schik, and attended a deacon information night. He began the discernment process and pursued a degree in pastoral ministry at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, graduating May 8.
“One of my classes really helped me to see that a vocation is not just using your gifts in the church but using your gifts in the world. As we carry forth our baptismal promises, it’s an opportunity to serve other people. Whether you are cutting meat, working in a hospital or wherever you are, you can serve out what you are called to do and be a witness to others,” he said.
Growing up, Froslee’s dad was always willing to help his neighbor and that commitment to service has been instilled deeply in him. He looks forward to serving the people of St. Edward’s and the other parishes in the cluster, Our Lady of the Lake in Battle Lake and St. James in Maine Township, and also the surrounding community.
“To serve God is to serve his people. That’s the focus of my ministry,” Froslee said. “I’m looking forward to bringing my service to the people of God in a richer form.”
• Chris Goenner
For Chris Goenner, the journey toward becoming a deacon began almost 25 years ago.
He was attending Mass at Annunciation Church in Mayhew Lake, where Father Wilfred Illies was preaching about deacons.
“I thought about it for a bit, then dismissed it,” Goenner said, “because I had small children and I needed to devote time to them as a father. I also knew ordained people like Father Illies, who I looked up to, and felt I wouldn’t be able to be the person they were.”
Goenner said years went by during which he would occasionally feel the Holy Spirit calling him. Eventually, he decided to take a “good hard look” at the diaconate. Through prayer, reflection and encouragement from others, he entered formal discernment.
“During my time in discernment, my love and understanding of God grew,” said Goenner, who works as an electrician. “Part of my growth was trust in the Holy Spirit. It has been such a beautiful walk with the Holy Spirit throughout this whole journey.
“There’s no doubt the Holy Spirit is with each of us every moment of every day,” he said. “There can be times when it’s difficult to see this in our lives. It can also be difficult to be patient and attentive to the message of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can speak to us in many different ways. Through prayer, reading … and quiet reflection, we can be sure God’s love will prevail in our lives.
“That is an important message,” he added. “God’s love is in us all. Once we open our hearts to God’s love we need to spread that message in our own personal way.”
And that’s what Goenner hopes will be part of his ministry as a permanent deacon.
“Our lives can be so busy. It can feel daunting to commit to giving of ourselves. We can feel God wants us to do big things and with God’s help we can,” he said. “But doing small things can also make a big difference.
We can talk with neighbors, forgive someone who has hurt us [or] help a day at the food shelf. Instead of waiting to do something big, start doing things in the small world around us. That is what I would like to do — to send the message that Christ is alive in us every day.”
Goenner and his wife, Theresa, are members of St. Peter Parish in St. Cloud. The couple has been married 34 years and has four children — Andrew (Breann), Anthony, Sarah and Cecilia (Chris) and three grandchildren — Cicely, Addelyn and Nolan.
“[Theresa’s] quiet peaceful presence would be my rock. She helps me see that God works through each of us in our own particular way,” he said. “We always look forward to spending time with our whole family. It is especially joyful to be part of our grandchildren’s lives. They are so full of life and God’s love.”
Once ordained, Goenner will be serving as a permanent deacon at St. Peter’s and its twin parish, St. Paul’s, in St. Cloud.
• Derek Wiechmann
In 2009, Derek Wiechmann entered Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona to discern the priesthood after graduating from Melrose High School. He grew up on a dairy farm northeast of St. Rosa, where he says he and his six siblings learned a lot about the Catholic faith from his parents, Michael and Brenda.
“My mom and dad taught me how to love God at a young age,” Wiechmann said. “I am very grateful for my family, especially my parents, who have been a solid foundation for my faith to grow and have shown a lot of love and support.”
Wiechmann, who graduated from IHM in 2013, attends St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul. He will be ordained a transitional deacon June 4, the next step of his formation before being ordained a priest, which he hopes will take place in June 2017.
“Ordination to the diaconate will be very humbling as I will lay down my life for Christ and his church. I’m looking forward to taking on a new role in the church and to lead people closer to Christ,” he said.
Following his diaconate ordination, he will serve as a deacon in Breckenridge for the summer before returning to St. Paul Seminary for his final year of theological studies.
“As a deacon I am most looking forward to leading people to Christ through preaching,” he said. “I’ve taken a few classes in seminary on preaching and have come to know some of my strengths and weaknesses and look forward to diving in.”
Additionally, Wiechmann looks forward to having a new role in celebrating some of the sacraments.
“My oldest sister, Stacy, and her husband, Brian, are expecting a baby in June,” he said. “I hope that will be my first baptism. Also I look forward to preaching the homily at a good friend’s wedding in August.”